Natural multicomponent ingredients and nutrients

At the heart of our research group activity is a biomaterials approach to sustainable nutrition and ingredients.

Professor David Gray and his team have developed methods to isolate/recover lipid-rich organelles from plant material as functional ingredients for food or feed. This area of work not only has potential impact (social/health/developing world, and commercial benefits), it is of fundamental scientific interest.

 David's research summary

Oleosomes (oil bodies) act as an energy store when oilseeds germinate. Their microstructure is lost during conventional oil extraction using organic solvents or high pressure crushing. Intact oleosomes can be recovered from oilseeds; ex-vivo (removed/isolated from their cellular environment) oleosomes disperse in water to form stable emulsions. Professor Gray's research group probes the physico-chemical nature of these micron-sized lipid droplets. For example, they carry oil rich in essential fatty acids and lipophilic micronutrients, and the natural amphiphilic coat that surrounds the oil protects it against oxidation. Professor Gray and his research group are also interested in how we digest these natural lipid droplets compared with processed emulsions.

oil seed close up

Chloroplasts are organelles, ubiquitous in the biosphere, which convert sunlight energy into chemical energy. Professor Gray's group has demonstrated that most of the nutrients in green plant material are concentrated in the chloroplast: omega-3 fatty acids; β-carotene (pro-vitamin A); lutein; tocopherol (vitamin E); phylloquinone (vitamin k1); ascorbic acid (vitamin C); iron; and manganese. Waste/underutilised green biomass is therefore an untapped source of this cocktail of nutrients which can be 'extracted' by simply removing chloroplasts. Professor Gray has developed a physical process to isolate/recover intact chloroplasts on a large scale. Such liberated and concentrated chloroplasts deliver more nutrients to the consumer than cell-bound chloroplasts since their digestion is not impeded by the cell wall. Professor Gray is also investigating the role of chloroplast microstructure in the release of nutrients during digestion (bioaccessibility).

Who we work with

Sources of funding for this work include
: BBSRC. EPSRC, Defra, Charitable Trusts, and Industry

Examples of external academic collaborators include: CNRS Marseille, France; University of Wageningen (Netherlands); University of Massachusetts (USA); Rothamsted Research International; University of York; University of Loughborough; Quadram Institute, Norwich; Kings College London; University of Manchester; University of Bath.

Contact us

You can read more about the team and our research, and get in touch with us via the email links on this page. 

To find out more about how we work with business, please contact Mita Lad, Senior Executive in our Corporate Partnerships team -



Meet the Research Team


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Professor  David Gray
Professor in Food Lipid Chemistry
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David's Orcid link

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David completed a PhD in plant lipid biochemistry at the University of Birmingham before joining the Nottingham team in 1993. He plays a key role in both teaching and research work at the University.
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Amin Aliyari

PhD Student

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Amin is a PhD student funded by a BBSRC programme. His research concerns a physicochemical comparison of plant-based lipid droplets (oleosomes) with milk fat globules. Amin’s project will identify the relationship between oleosome composition and microstructure, and their physical properties in model food systems and in-mouth; this will allow industry to take significant steps to replace dairy fat with a plant alternative in a range of products.

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Chao Chi
PhD Student

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Chao is a 3rd year PhD student working on the impact of material properties on the digestibility of chloroplast-rich fractions.

Chao’s PhD research isolates and recovers lipid-rich chloroplasts from spinach, and applies drying techniques and thermal processing to produce dried chloroplasts as functional food ingredients with enhanced shelf stability. She also investigates the role of food processing on chloroplast microstructure and the release of nutrients during digestion (bioaccessibility).

Ardeshir Farmanfarmaian
MPhil Student

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Ardeshir (Ardi) Farmanfarmaian is an MPhil student in the University's  Food, Nutrition & Dietetics and Plant Sciences Departments. His project involves growing spinach plants in perlite media in growing room conditions, coupled with tracing the flow of iron (Fe) from growth media to the human digestive system via the liberation of chloroplasts from spinach leaves. Ardi works in association with two postdoctoral students in Food, Nutrition & Dietetics.
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Liuhang Ji
PhD Student

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Liuhang Ji is a PhD student at the University of Nottingham. He is working on a project to optimize oral lipid-based drug delivery systems for targeted drug disposition into the intestinal lymphatic system and brain.





Food and Biomaterials

The University of Nottingham
Food Sciences, Sutton Bonington Campus
Loughborough, LE12 5RD

telephone: 0115 951 6147